Teacher Trainer

9. Content Representation (CoRe): 1

An introduction to Content Representation (CoRe)

The idea of a Content Representation (CoRe) was developed by John Loughran and colleagues to discover what experienced teachers know about how to teach science. It has also been used to develop PCK for new teachers.

A CoRe is constructed by asking teachers to identify the “big ideas” associated with teaching a topic to a particular group of students. These big ideas become the horizontal axis of a CoRe and are analysed in different ways through prompts listed on the vertical axis. The prompts relate to two areas of a teacher’s decision making: curriculum decisions and instructional decisions. The first area contains questions such as “What do you intend the students to learn?” and “Why is it important for the students to know this?” The second includes “Knowledge about students’ thinking” and “Teaching approaches”. 

What makes a ‘Big Idea’?

Spotting the big ideas relevant to a topic needs both subject knowledge and experience of teaching the topic. Course specifications and assessment materials will also be helpful.

Some criteria for a big idea might include:

  • Importance for understanding the topic as a whole – a big idea will run through many of the ideas making up the topic
  • Connectedness – a big idea will help to relate different ideas
  • Importance for student progress – a student who misses out on the idea will struggle to master the topic
  • Big ideas will often be at the level of key concepts or principles For example, the principle of conservation of energy is a big idea in applied science and engineering. As well as being important in its own right, it re-appears in other ideas – such as the First Law of Thermodynamics and the idea of an adiabatic process.